Did you pass?
High school juniors and their parents will find out over the next week if the students passed the new, high stakes Alaska High School Graduation Qualifying Exam. The scores now are in the hands of high school principals, who decide how to distribute them.
"I know a bunch of schools have already started meeting with kids," Mark Leal, director of assessment for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, said Monday.
Students have several opportunities to take the tests but must eventually pass all three sections (reading, writing and mathematics) to receive a high school diploma under state law taking effect with the Class of 2002.
The test results, which Leal described as a huge pile of papers, arrived from Juneau on a Wednesday evening flight. He and his assistant spent Thursday delivering them to high schools around the district.
Schools are distributing the reports in various ways, and everyone involved has been in suspense awaiting the news.
"Kids are anxious. Parents are anxious. We're anxious," said Skyview High School Principal John Pothast in Soldotna.
Central peninsula high schools will mail the reports to parents by the end of this week along with explanatory material.
The schools will focus on how to assist students who did not pass all the sections the first time around. The next step for those students and their parents will be meetings with guidance counselors and possible schedule changes.
"We expect a lot of parents will have questions," said Kenai Central High School principal Sam Stewart.
At Skyview, some students already are in remedial language arts classes. A remedial math class and after-school tutoring sessions will begin as soon as everyone gets the scores, Pothast said.
Likewise, Nikiski Middle-Senior High School Principal Robin Williams said the school has remedial math and language arts classes in place.
The principals said the results will mean extra work for staff, especially counselors, but in the long run having the tangible results will help schools focus on what students most need.
Leal cautioned that these results are only preliminary.
The state has not officially approved the pass-fail cut-off scores recommended by the special task force evaluating the tests. The state board of education is scheduled to meet Sept. 8 to discuss the matter, he said.
"I think everyone is hoping that will be the end of it," he said.
If the board deviates from the recommendations, that could change the outcome for students with borderline scores.
Educators also are waiting for the reports analyzing the test results on a school and district level. Although the test publisher, CTB/McGraw-Hill, announced statewide average results in June, the detailed reports will not be available until late September.
Despite the unresolved issues, the district wanted to get the scores to students and parents as soon as possible, Leal stressed.
"We are kind of on the horns of a dilemma here," he said. "I just want people to understand this is not the final word."
The June announcement indicated that on the first attempt at the tests, given in March, three in four Alaska students passed the reading section, half passed the writing and only one of three passed the math. Educators caution that the test takers were sophomores with two more years of course work ahead before they need to be proficient.
Those who failed any section will have four more chances to pass in high school and six more after they finish 12th grade. The subject matter will be the same, but individual questions will be different each time. The next test dates will be Oct. 5-7.
The first test results were originally due at the end of September. The state asked the publisher to expedite the results and get them to people at the beginning of the school year so students could make appropriate schedule changes.
On the revised schedule, the results were due before school began, but CTB/McGraw Hill ran into a glitch. Some student identification information was separated from tests submitted by a few Alaska districts, meaning the company had scored test papers but did not know who had taken them.
Leal told a school board work session Aug. 21 that he was confident that all the peninsula district's papers were in order.
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